parent’s first time in Europe, no pressure right? How I tackled this epic project.
– flights. I committed several Kayak alerts to watching the east coast USA to central / southern Spain flights. Bearing in mind that flying into Sevilla usually jacks up the price and adds a layover in Madrid – I watched nearby Malaga (AGP) and also the epicenter of the universe: Madrid.
– hotels. I swear by hotels.com and booking.com. I lean heavily on booking.com for its user reviews (there are hundreds) and occasionally check with Fodors.com for hotel recommendations. Hotels.com has a variety of ways to sort the results and if you manage to book ten nights through their website – you can have one night for free.
– transportation. We are not planning on renting a car. I would rather not have to worry about being responsible for such a thing, and I would much rather use public transportation. So, trains are our main mode of transport. Thanks to Renfe’s website you can see the schedules and prices for everything. I plan to buy our train tickets in advance to secure seats – sometimes they are popular trains and sell out pretty quickly.
– budget. Oh yes, I made a spreadsheet. It was the only way I could get my thoughts straight and keep track of everything. If you have any interest in the numbers, just holler and I will be happy to share them with you. All in all I would say we are going to be doing this for far cheaper than I originally anticipated.
– museums / tickets. Thanks to the tourism boom, it is now possible to buy many tickets online to the majority of historical sites and museums. Sometimes prior purchases can help you cut the line (see: Anne Frank) and can secure a place for you at a certain time (see: the Alhambra). Of the cities we are visiting, the only site we can order tickets for in advance is the Alhambra. Let me issue a warning here. The palace only accepts a certain amount of visitors per day. When I went in November, we walked in without advance tickets. Conversely, when I attempted to book tickets for a friend visiting in January, the first 3 days I tried were sold out.
* a side note on museum entrance in Europe. There are a myriad of possible discounts. Retirees (65+), students, large families, kids under 12, kids under 5, teachers, etc. Be mindful of the rules of each and every monument as they will vary. In my experience it is also true that it depends on the person who is working at the counter. For example, my first trip to the Sevilla Cathedral was free. My second trip cost 8 euros. Annoying, right? Well some people check your card and some people don´t. Some people ask for your birthday, others don´t. Some people will take you at your word (¨ I´m a teacher ¨), other won´t. So don´t expect this to remain the same on every trip. My best advice is to give it a try, and if it works .. good for you!
In you were wondering .. they´ll be here in two weeks 🙂 I can´t wait!
As for me, it´s off to Galicia and points north this weekend .. I´ve never seen that side of the country, so I´m looking forward to the change of scenery and obviously, the food.